All my life I thought that my last name was Irish. A couple years ago, I found out that, although I am Irish, my last name is Scottish. Life crisis.
So when we had a long weekend and Rachel suggested Ireland, I was super pumped. It was her birthday weekend and she wanted to be somewhere everyone speaks English. (If you’ve studied abroad in a country that doesn’t speak English, you’ll definitely understand.) So I decided to plan a short trip to see my people in Edinburgh before jetting off to Dublin.
Edinburgh was a fairytale, like really. Everywhere I looked I saw the inspiration that JK Rowling used to fuel her imagination for Harry Potter. I literally sat in the same café at a table with a view of the castle where she used to sit. That definitely made my top 5 most inspiring moments in life. It sounds so lame, but I felt so at peace. I never wanted to leave.
I stayed at a hostel near the castle, just off the Royal Mile. I was in a perfect location for everything in Edinburgh. After spending too much time in The Elephant House, I went to the National Museum of Scotland. I wandered around there as happy as a kid in a candy store.
Now a trip to Scotland isn’t complete without a taste testing of Scotch Whisky. I went to the Scottish Whiskey Experience and learned about the distillery process—which is very similar to brewing beer. I learned about how the different areas of Scotland produce different Scotch. They took us through their whiskey collection and I found my calling–there was a brand of Scotch called McCall’s. I will find them and I will move there to work in the distillery.
The whiskey that I tried had a strong, smoky flavor from the area of Isla. It hit me pretty fast, so I had to go get some haggis in my belly. Haggis is all of the parts of the sheep that you wouldn’t want to eat mixed together, grinded up and seasoned on top of mashed potatoes. It’s actually delicious.
I was also impressed with Scotland’s microbreweries. They had a lot of different beers to choose from, which isn’t common in the Czech Republic yet. I had my first IPA in months and it was everything.
I listened to some traditional Scottish music and met two Englishmen who were in Edinburgh for business. One of them had a girlfriend from Texas. He was not a fan of Texas, so naturally we bonded. After too many pints and whiskey sours I made my way back into my comfy bunk.
The next morning I went back to The Elephant House for breakfast—no shame. Then I did the free walking tour. The guide was so animated and full of history, so I actually learned a lot. Edinburgh is not a very big city, so everything is in walking distance.
I met Diana on the walking tour. She’s from Australia and is studying law in Wales. We had a nice lunch and mutually agreed that if we are ever to travel to Australia/Wisconsin that we have a place to crash.
That afternoon I went to the castle. The weather did a 180 and it ended up being a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. I walked around the castle for a while and tried an Irn Bru. It’s a Scottish drink that tastes like bubblegum. It’s rumored to cure hangovers. It didn’t do the job, but it was still delicious. Scotland is actually the only country (besides North Korea) where Coke is not the top-selling soft drink. They are very loyal to their Irn Bru.
After the castle, I wandered down to the graveyard that is behind The Elephant House. JK Rowling used to walk around it to get ideas for character names. I saw the headstones that inspired Professor McGonagall and Lord Voldemort. Being the Harry Potter freak that I am, I was living my dream. I never wanted to leave. But Dublin was calling.
Dublin is a busier city than the places I’ve been traveling to, and quite expensive. On Saturday we did a tour of the southside of the River Liffey. We saw Trinity College, the castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Our tour guide was great. We ended up going back to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and The Old Library, which also inspired JK Rowling. I could not escape Harry Potter and it was glorious.
That afternoon we had our first Irish meal: bangers and mash. Of course we washed it down with Guinness. I can’t explain to you how different Guinness tastes in Ireland. They use water from the Wicklow Mountains so it is incredibly smooth.
We enjoyed it so much that we had to make a stop at the Guinness Storehouse. It is really well put together. There are seven different levels with different themes and a lot of interactive options. At the top is a circular bar with windows so you can enjoy your pint with a view of the city.
We went to the Temple Bar District for dinner and ended up staying at The Norseman because the band was amazing. We think they were a brother and sister duo and they played almost every type of music you could think of. The best part was when they played the “Galway Girl” song from PS I Love You because obviously every girl thinks of that movie when they think of Ireland.
The next day we woke up suuuuper early for a day trip to the west coast. We stopped at King John’s Castle (the bad guy from Robin Hood), then made our way to the Cliffs of Moher. They were amazing. Neither words nor pictures can do them justice.
We stopped at a cute, family-run pub for lunch then visited some smaller cliffs. We made a final stop in a small fishing town where I finally had my Irish coffee—the perfect pick-me-up.
That night we had dinner at the Porterhouse and listened to more live music. Dublin has an incredible music scene that Prague seems to lack.
The next day Rachel left and I had the day to myself, so I went to The Little Museum of Dublin. All of the items in the museum were donated by Dubliners. The museum takes you through the history of Dublin through their belongings.
Then I took a stroll around St. Stephen’s Green. There was a little Christmas market that I walked through. I don’t care that it’s not Thanksgiving yet; I loved every minute of it.
I’m a huge fan of Scottish/Irish food, but I had reached my limit that day so I switched it up with some Thai food. #noregrets
Now I know I’ve said this about almost every place I’ve been, but the Scottish/Irish take the cake when it comes to the nicest people award. I could never get sick of them calling me “love” or saying “cheers” whenever I thanked them. And let’s not forget the accents. There’s something about those accents.
And on that note, I’m going to watch Harry Potter.